Your Comp & Pen Exams
What is a Comp & Pen Exam?
Compensation & Pension (Comp & Pen) Exams are forensic examinations used to gather evidence used by the VBA to make decisions on claims for disability compensation benefits. The purpose of a Comp & Pen Exam is twofold: (1) to provide a nexus between your current condition and service or service-connected condition; and (2) to evaluate the severity of your condition and how much it impacts your ability to work so the VBA can assign a rating for each service-connected condition.
The VA uses standardized forms for each body system called Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs) to make sure the examiner provides the necessary information for the VBA to make a decision and assign a rating.
Because of COVID-19, many Comp & Pen Exams are now being scheduled through video or tele-conference examinations. For more information on how the VA is handling Comp & Pen Exams during the coronavirus pandemic, visit va.gov/coronavirus.
What Should I Expect on the Day of the Exam?
Remember, the Comp & Pen Exam is your opportunity to present all the reasons you believe your condition is related to service to the physician. If your condition is not already service-connected, be sure to talk to the examiner about what happened in service that could have led to your current condition. The examiner will provide his/her medical opinion that your condition is: (a) less likely than not, (b) as likely as not (50/50), or (c) more likely than not, related to service or another service-connected condition.
The examiner will be observing your movements and behavior and may perform a limited physical exam to evaluate your condition. Here are a few things to keep in mind during the evaluation piece of the exam:
- Talk about what happened in service that you believe caused or aggravated your condition. Try to be as specific as possible. If you are not comfortable discussing the details of an in-service event, you may point to statements you submitted to the VA previously for the examiner to reference. If you can, provide the examiner with a copy of these statements on the day of the exam.
- Make sure to discuss what symptoms you experienced immediately following the in-service event/injury and how they have worsened or evolved over time from service through the present. It is important that the examiner can trace the start of your symptoms back to the claimed in-service event/injury.
- Be honest when describing the frequency and severity of your symptoms and how they impact your day-to-day life to the examiner; do not downplay the severity of your symptoms. Keep in mind that the examiner will be closely monitoring your movements and behavior, including your body language and the tone of your voice.
- Do not answer a question you do not understand. Ask for clarification if necessary. Do not talk to fill the space or time. Keep your conversation with the examiner limited to what happened in service, the frequency and severity of symptoms related to your condition, and how they impact your day-to-day life.
- While the exam is not meant to be painful, you may experience slight discomfort depending on the required testing. When testing your range of motion, be sure to tell the examiner as soon as you begin to experience pain, as this contributes to your overall functional loss.
- If you are prescribed any medication(s) for your condition, be sure to tell the examiner the name and dosage of each medication and how often you take each. This is extremely important, because medication may mask some of your symptoms, or the use of medication(s) may be used to evaluate the severity of your condition and how much it impacts your ability to work.
What Should I Do After the Exam?
Right after your exam, be sure to email your representative to let them know how your exam went. A few days after your exam, your representative will contact you to discuss the results of the Comp & Pen Exam once it is uploaded to your VA file.
After the Comp & Pen Exam, it generally takes the VA 30-60 days to review the Comp & Pen Report along with the evidence in your file and render a decision on your claim(s). In the meantime, you can provide the VA with your feedback about your experience with the Comp & Pen examiner. To provide your feedback, click here.
What Else Can I Do to Assist with My Claim?
- Talk to Your Physician – Talk to your primary care physician about your symptoms regularly. The more medical evidence you can point to in support of your claim, the more likely the VA is to assign the most accurate rating evaluation to your condition once it is service-connected.
- Tell the VA About Outside Treatment – If you have treated anywhere outside of the VA, make sure your current private medical records are part of your VA claims file. The VA will request your private medical records for you if you submit signed a VA Form 21-4142 and VA Form 21-4142a. You must complete and submit both of these documents.
- Submit Statements – your statements and the statements of close friends and family members can provide valuable insight into the severity of your symptoms and how much they impact your ability to work. Your statement may also be used as evidence of an in-service event or injury in the absence of service treatment records.